The other day, while making my way through my local department store, I was greeted by the violently festive sight of towering Christmas trees, hundreds of little shiny ornaments, and the unignorable tune “Feliz Navidad.” Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays. But it’s September.
In the Philippines, where I’m from, Christmas usually starts on Sept. 1 and goes on until Dec. 31 (called “the ber months,” because they end with “ber”), and might even extend to January. That’s a lot of time for a season that’s known elsewhere for having all of 12 days.
This has been the case for as long as I can remember. “The longest Christmas season in the world,” as it’s usually referred to, is often a point of pride for the country. We’re a festive, family-oriented, and faithful people (at least we like to say), and our long holiday season is a reflection of that.
Now, not to be a grinch or to shit on Philippine culture, but I’m beginning to get tired of the months-long festivities.
Part of it is logical. The holidays are special because they’re short.
Extending Christmas four- to five-fold by playing Christmas songs and hanging decorations for almost half the year makes it less meaningful.
My view of the holidays also changes as I get older.
No longer are they a time to run through toy stores making an infinite list of what I want. They are now a time to budget and pay bills. In family-oriented Philippines, that can come with a pressure to prove yourself, often through gifts to your parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, godparents, godchildren, second cousins, and their neighbors and dogs.
Like any reasonable adult, I don’t want to be reminded of my responsibilities sooner than when I actually have to meet them. If it’s a December problem, please don’t bother my September self about it.
The economics of the holidays might also compound a growing disdain for capitalism.
When I see Christmas sales being pushed in malls, I only imagine the men in the boardroom making bank. I hardly ever remember the child in the manger as he sleeps. When I see plastic trees filled with sparkly ribbons and balls, I can’t help but wish people cared more about actual trees. When I see both kids and adults look longingly at shop displays, I wonder how deep a state of consumerism and materialism we all fall back into over a season of love and togetherness.
Let’s not forget all the other holidays that happen from September to December that the longest Christmas season in the world inadvertently turns into, well, part of Christmas.
Most notably is Halloween. Yes, the idea of an old man sneaking into your house in the middle of the night is also scary, but not in the same way. Yes, I love noche buena (a late Christmas Eve dinner celebration), but I also love trick-or-treating (or, fine, trashy Halloween parties). Celebrating Christmas in September just feels like undermining all of that. Should we start celebrating Halloween in August to compensate?
There’s also the case for holiday fatigue. The sooner we start celebrating, the sooner I want to stop. Come December (you know, the actual holidays), I’m throwing up the holiday spirit faster than I’m throwing up your aunt’s fruit cake.
I guess my problem with celebrating Christmas so early comes down to the garish in-your-face-ness of doing it. It’s almost like we’re telling each other we’re so unhappy with our regular lives that we’ll jump at the first opportunity to put up a holly and jolly facade.
It’s not lost on me that the Philippines is home to some of the greatest and warmest Christmas traditions in the world. I love a parol-lit barangay (village), an OFW (migrant worker) homecoming complete with three balikbayan boxes, a family gathering with people you’ve never met, and simbang gabi (dawn masses) with non-negotiable puto bumbong. The spirit of Christmas really is in our hearts.
All I want is for us to not open our gifts so early. I think they’re worth the wait.
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